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5 Reasons to Celebrate National Yoga Month

Oh, September. With you comes the genesis of Fall, the NFL season kick-off and school bells ringing. It’s also a time for yogis to celebrate as September is National Yoga Month. Designed to educate all about the health benefits of yoga and to inspire a healthy lifestyle, lets get in the spirit of this OM-mazing month!

Yoga is an ancient practice with origins stretching back thousands of years in India. It is designed to help achieve a more positive outlook on life and a focused, permanent sense of serenity and peace. The word ‘yoga’ itself means ‘union’ and ‘union with the divine'; however, many people have stripped away the spirituality and focus of yoga so that most think of it as a group of intensely athletic people putting their legs behind their heads and curling up into jaw-dropping positions.

After years of careful stretches and practice–yoga has so much more to offer than flexibility and the idea of garnering a strong body. People of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities can do yoga and adapt it to suit their individual tastes and needs. If you think yoga might not be for you, we urge you to reconsider. Here are five reasons why you should start doing yoga as soon as you can via LifeHack!

  1. It’s a great workout. First of all and most obviously, yoga is a fantastic workout for your body. You can adapt the practices to your own speed and level of comfort. No matter which yoga exercises you choose, the practices will always be part of a great workout routine. There are some fantastic series of movements out there that are perfect for every kind of day and for every kind of person, meaning there’s no reason not to start doing some yoga as soon as you can.
  2. It gets you in touch with your body. Yoga stretches and exercises are designed around the idea of moving your body to increase its strength and durability. Therefore, doing yoga on a regular basis will really get you to be much more in tune with your body and know when something is really working and when it isn’t.
  3. It can help your breathing technique. A big part of yoga is the breathing exercises–or the pranayama–which are incorporated into positions and then on their own. The exercises encourage a more focused and centered way of breathing, and while they might not be something you’ll do consciously every day, they’re absolutely sure to provide methods of effective stress-management and generally make you feel much better. Plus, as someone with asthma, it really helps to open your lungs and explore what it means to breath consciously. Trust me: do those pranayamas for a few weeks, and you’ll feel the benefits.
  4. It can improve your sleep. Another minor but pleasant benefit is that doing yoga can actually help you get better sleep. This might be due to the fact that a few sequences of poses and movements are intended to be done right before sleep, but regardless, studies have shown that doing some light physical activity before our heads hit the hay can help us get off to sleep more quickly, which usually leads to a much better quality of sleep.
  5. It will improve your posture. Yoga is pretty effective at helping you develop some premium, proper posture, since a lot of the breathing and seated positions require a straight back for proper effect. Good posture is definitely going to develop during yoga practice. You’ll start off slouching and slumped, reflecting the figure of someone who spends most of the day at their desk–believe me, I’ve been there–and yoga will help sculpt your back into the kind of poised posture that’ll make you walk taller and feel immensely better about it.
5 Secrets To Maintaining a Regular Yoga Practice

Those of us who have been practicing yoga for a few years know that the enthusiasm can wax and wane. The high of a teacher training course can drift away after returning home, and the bliss felt after a weekly yoga class with a teacher you resonate strongly with can be hard to recreate in the living room. If you want to go further and maintain a daily yoga practice, Ian Marshall from Yogi Approved suggests a few attitudes you can develop to improve your chances. The first is to recognize that rolling the mat out in the morning is the most difficult step!

Here are 5 secrets to maintaining a regular yoga practice:
 
Intention. When our practice comes from a deep place of wanting to improve ourselves, to connect with a higher power, and to find inner peace, then we can approach asanas from a completely different—and more empowered—place.
 
Perseverance. By coming back to our mat again and again, our practice inevitably deepens. We can stretch further and we find energy flowing more freely. Things we hadn’t previously observed about ourselves become clear in those moments. Like anything in life, having perseverance is the key to success.
 
Patience. If your practice is not going well one day, it’s OK! Keep going, lighten the load, give yourself a long relaxation, and remember that simply arriving to your yoga mat is practice in itself.

Joy. Enjoying what you are doing on the mat is crucial if you are going to maintain regularity in your yoga practice. Enjoy the stretching like a cat stretching its body after a long nap, and if you’re having a bad day, give yourself the chance to practice your favorite asanas. Approach your practice with playfulness and joy.
 
Enthusiasm. The partner of joy, the word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek “entheos” which means “filled with God.” When you practice with a sense of positivity and from a place of wanting to be in this moment above all else, then you are quite simply bringing yourself back to the divine again and again. Which is what yoga is all about, right?!

The most important factor in having a regular practice is keeping the right attitude and approaching your opportunity to spend time in this way with an enormous sense of gratitude. From this perspective, you will authentically want to practice yoga, and not view it as a chore. We all make time for the things we want!

8 Yoga Festival Essentials for $20 or Less!

Going to a yoga festival this summer? Jessica Walsh shares with us via Yoga International her must-have yoga essentials to take with you! "I make a point to attend at least one yoga festival or conference per year. I’ve been outdoors in the mountains and the desert and inside lots of hotel ballrooms. Over the past five+ years of attending, I’ve cultivated a list of what I would consider "essentials" to bring along in order to get the most out of the experience and to avoid spending a bunch of extra money at the event," Jessica explains. "Your festival packing list will likely be a little longer than if you were just going to a yoga class, but buying in advance can help cut costs."

She's picked out some of her favorite yoga festival essentials that won't leave you feeling guilty about how much you’re spending. Often frustrated by overpriced yoga products, all of these options can be found for around $20 (or less!). If you struggle with spending too much on gear, then keep reading; Jessica has picked out some of her favorite yoga festival essentials that won't leave you feeling guilty about how much you’re spending.

Anything-But-Basic Bra. If you generally find that a comfortable and supportive bra allows you to flow freely on the mat, consider this a must-pack item! I’ve practiced in enough uncomfortable bras (bras that were scratchy or pulled on my neck) to know that the right support can make all the difference when it comes to having an enjoyable class experience.

Shorts. If class is outside, you’ll probably want a pair of shorts for when the weather is warm and sunny. RBX shorts from Target ($16.99) are a nice option because they are a little longer than average, so you won’t constantly be pulling them down during your practice! There’s a hidden pocket and flat-lock seams to ensure comfort. They come in a few different colors, the "military green" being my favorite.

A Good Pair of Capris. I like to have a pair of capris with me during outdoor festivals just in case the weather is rainy or just cooler than expected. If you're sleeping outside, they're also a good option for keeping a bit warmer at night. And during indoor events when the AC is on full blast, having something more substantial than shorts can help to keep the goosebumps at bay. While the typical yoga brands certainly offer a wide selection of capris, for a more affordable option you can scope out the active-wear section of your favorite mall, department, or online store for a practice-worthy pair.

Yoga Bags. Keep your mat in this handmade bag by iLoveHeyJute ($8.06) made from jute, natural plant fiber, hessian, burlap, organic cotton. The pouch is useful to store a few other small items that you might need during class, and might even allow you to get away with not carrying any other bags to class!

Beat the Bugs. It would be ideal NOT to spend the weekend scratching at bug bites, right? (Plus, the threat of Lyme disease kind of freaks me out, and we should all try our best to prevent it!) This all-natural bug repellent from Sweetly Citron (16.95) is a great choice to keep the bugs away. (If you don't believe me, check out all of the great reviews on Amazon!)

Fun Flip-Flops. Flip-flops are easy slip on and off when you're coming and going from your classes; plus, if you get a unique pattern they’ll be easy to spot in the inevitable crowd of shoes waiting by the door. (Believe me, you don’t want to end up frantically trying to figure out which of the many pairs of black flip-flops are yours!)

A Headband to Keep the Flyaways at Bay. A good headband will keep the flyaways out of your face so that you can focus on the yoga, not your hair!

Water, Water, Water! (and something to drink it out of) Don’t forget to drink lots of water during the festival! A nice water bottle makes it that much easier to stay hydrated.

Fancy Finger and Toenails. Why is this an essential? Because you’ll smile every time you look at your fingers or toes! I highly recommend this awesome non-toxic nail polish from Scotch Naturals ($15). I’m a girly-girl and love painting my nails so I’m happy to find this option that’s safe for my body too!

These are just a few of the things you’ll want to pack for your yoga festival. We want to hear in the comments what essentials you pack!

Ask Your Yogi Expert: Q&A with Stephanie Gongora

 

You’ve heard so much about yoga, you know it’s supposed to be great for you by making make you fit, flexible, focused and stress free. But, if you don’t know where to begin, if your doing it right, or even know what yoga is, read on! We spoke with yogi Stephanie Gongora ahead of our #YogisBreatheFree Instagram challenge to learn how she got started with her practice. Known for her beautiful 'Daily Flow' videos (also available on YouTube), Stephanie has built a loyal following of supporters who look to her for advice and inspiration. 

When did you start your yoga practice and how did you come to discover the joys of being a yogi?
I started seriously practicing yoga on a daily basis just over two years ago. I grew up doing gymnastics, but stopped shortly after high school.  During almost a 10 year hiatus from a sport that had dominated my early years, I found myself searching for something, anything to take its place…to no avail.  I tried my hand at aerial arts, such as lyra and pole fitness, but when I stumbled across incredible yogis on Instagram manipulating their bodies in ways that I never thought possible, I knew I was hooked.  I've always enjoyed being upside down, and through daily practice and pushing the boundaries of what I used to know as "yoga," I've found that my passion for yoga on and off the mat just continues to grow.

What would you say to someone who is skeptical about the benefits of yoga?

I used to be one of you! I thought yoga was boring! I didn't really think of it as a workout, and I never contemplated all of the other limbs of yoga outside of asana. But that was simply ignorance on my part.  There are so many fields of yoga, so many different schools and techniques, that there is truly something perfect for everyone. No matter where you start, you can find contentment through practice, both physical and spiritual. 

What tips do you have for beginner yogis who are interested in mastering their practice?

I would suggest starting with an experience teacher who uses a lot of cues, both physical and verbal.  Even if you intend to practice mostly at home, learning the basic foundations of the physical practice is key to progress and safe progress at that.  The mind is quick to remember the seeds we plant.  Even a few basic classes with a great teacher (one on ones are even better) can cement what a pose can feel like when correct activations are made.  Then you can take that home to your personal practice. Other advice would be: DON'T GIVE UP! What do they always say? #PracticeAndAllIsComing . It's so true with yoga. You may not even notice the progress at times, and it's not always physical.  But it's there. And it's worth it. 

Simple Steps To Love Yourself (More) In The Modern World

If you ask everyone but yourself, it’s a good place to start. Then try these simple tips thanks to Yoga Journal, culled from Kathryn Budig, Tara Stiles, and more gladiators of the mindfulness movement from the 'I Love Me Workshop' in New York City.  Follow these simple steps below to love yourself more... everyday!

Set the tone for your day.  We’re at the mercy of the external world when we launch into the day without plugging into ourselves first. Before getting out of bed every morning, ask yourself, ‘How are you feeling today?’ Maybe you need to cancel a meeting or spend more time on your personal life. Whatever it is, on you know what’s going on within.

Take five minutes in the morning for meditation. Stop saying you’ll start meditating once you have a better handle on your schedule. Just taking five minutes in the morning benefits you all day. When we meditate, we’re never hanging out in fear, anxiety or hatred because we can always access this place of love, strength, and power.

Be honest with yourself—and listen to what you’re saying. Meditation creates a space for honesty in all its beautiful (and brutal) forms. That means we accept responsibility for our own decisions and how they aid and abet relationship issues and frustrations.

Add a positive filter to friendships. Body bashing is a great way to bond with friends. —no one ever. On the other hand, articulating something we love about ourselves gives a friend permission to feel good too.

Quit trying to hack others’ belief systems. In a social media culture, we often post, tweet or ping inspirational words and images that we feel help or define us. But there’s a fine line between sharing and foisting a philosophy on those who didn’t ask for one, just to ride a fleeting ego buzz. Focus on connecting with yourself, and it will radiate and inspire others authentically.

Slow your dinner roll. Are you eating what you want to eat or did someone throw down a deep-dish and make the choice for you? Give yourself the space to consider how to nourish and fuel your body, and you’ll leave the table feeling good about yourself. Meditating for a few minutes before mealtime makes our food far more satisfying because it slows us down. We’re then tapped into how we’re feeling, which can help prevent overeating or eating too quickly.

Choose mood-boosting foods. Feeling low on self-love may be solved with food science. Diets rich with Omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon, flaxseeds, and hemp) reduce inflammation in our brain and help improve our moods. Similarly, spinach, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts are bursting with folate, a nutrient linked to lower depression rates. Of course, the wrong foods can wreak havoc on our self-image. Processed, packaged foods crammed with sugars and trans fats increase inflammation in our brain, our mood and stress levels take a hit.

Repeat 100X: “Me time” is not a guilty pleasure. Just because work, friends, and family place large demands on us, carving out time for ourselves isn’t selfish: Ultimately, it’s an investment in those around us.

Let's Breathe Free: Pin-To-Win 3-Bottle Packs of Rootology!

Yoga is just better when you can breathe free! In order to gain the full benefit of your yoga session, you must make sure you breathe deeply, fully, and in coordination with the movements of your limbs.

The yogic breath delivers increased oxygen to your cells while the movements and holding of postures improves circulation, removing waste materials that impair efficiency. By taking Rootology #BreatheFree, you can experience fast-acting, non-drowsy, natural nasal, sinus & respiratory relief, including against pollen and other environmental irritants to deepen your breath before and during yoga.

We are excited to present our loyal customers with another opportunity to win a three bottle pack of Breathe Free through our latest 'Pin-To-Win' contest!

Rules of Entry

  1. Follow Rootology on Pinterest here: Pinterest.com/Rootology
  2. Re-pin this pin on your Pinterest account
  3. Include hashtags: #BreatheFree, #Rootology, #YogisBreatheFree

(Terms & Conditions: Contest closes on March 6, 2015 at 11:59 PM EDT. Three winners will be randomly chosen and contacted via Pinterest by March 7, 2015)

5 Yoga Tips To Get You Through The Holidays


Whether you practice every day, three times or once a week, maintaining your yoga practice this time of year can be difficult. There are parties, busy work days, travel and over-all hectic scheduling that can pull you away from your mat. The problem is, many of us can get stressed this time of year, and lose sight of what the holidays are really about. More than ever, our yoga practices are enormously important to keep us sane. It’s been proven that yoga can reduce stress and adapt our brains to think more level-headed. But let’s acknowledge, that yes, it’s hard. Consistently making it to your mat is the most important — and yet one of the hardest — things to do. Try these little tips and tricks thanks to Naomi Abbot to keep your yoga practice consistent no matter what the external forces may be.

Set up a yoga area at home and leave it there. Find a space in your house where you can build a little yoga area. Lay out your mat, keep your blocks set up, and have some incense nearby. It’s much easier to make yourself hit the mat if it’s there ready and waiting. It’s even better if it’s at home because then you don’t have to go anywhere to actually get your yoga in. It’s also especially handy if you like to do early morning yoga. You can easily wake up and wander to your mat, letting yourself fully awaken as you settle in with your breath and begin moving your body.

Get a space heater. In most states, December is cold. It makes you want to do, well, nothing. To overcome that, have a little space heater set up near my yoga mat, and turn it on 5-10 minutes before you hit the mat. By the time you come back into the room, the space is nice and warm. It’s like a little escape from winter, and makes the yoga practice that much more sweet. Not to mention you’ll really get a sweat going once you get into it.

Sign up for a streaming service. With all the crazy scheduling and travel this time of year, it can be hard to make your yoga studio’s schedule fit with your own. That’s why streaming services are a great supplement to your class regimen. Late at night, or in a hotel room — you can pull them up whenever and wherever you’d like. Most only cost $10-$15 a month, so you won’t be breaking the bank, and you may even be incentivized to get in more yoga than you did before. Some streaming services that are great to check out include Udaya, My Yoga Works, and YogaGlo.

Take a minute to plan your week. It’s much easier to get in yoga when you pre-plan which days you should do it. Do yourself a favor, and sit down on Sundays to think through what’s coming up over the next seven days. Plan which days you will hit your mat, and then try your hardest to stick with it. Be sure you’re not just filling every free moment with yoga though. Be realistic. Planning your week also involves making time for socializing and down time. Every life needs balance.

Shorten your practice. Some days, you just won’t be able to get in those juicy, sweaty 90 minutes. That’s ok. Just 15 minutes of yoga is better than nothing. Even sitting cross-legged on your mat and doing breath work is beneficial for the mind. Sometimes you’ll plan to do 20 minutes, and you’ll end up doing 60 once you get going. Whatever you have time for, do it. The important thing is getting on your mat.

This article was originally published on the Free People blog.

Restorative Yoga: How To Get A Healthy Mind And Body

Restorative yoga can benefit both your mental and physical health. Discover why these therapeutic types of yoga are so good for your mind, body and soul.

Why are we always so stressed?
While we are used to functioning in cycle with nature's rhythms, making time for ourselves to unplug has become less of a priority on modern day to-do lists. Culturally we live in a highly stressed society where what's valued is producing more, doing more and becoming better. With the portability of tech gadgets like cellphones, tablets and laptops, we now carry our work and social life with us wherever we go. We're constantly having to extend ourselves because we have all these technological tools that facilitate us taking on more responsibility.

According to Kelly McGonigal, a psychology professor at Stanford University, stress impairs our ability to change a habit. When we're in fight-or-flight mode, our body believes we're experiencing a state of emergency, making the smallest temptations even harder to resist. Stress prepares our brain to act on impulse, so if you're trying to put down the cookie jar or turn off the TV at a decent hour, chances are you'll continue to yo-yo until you develop tools for managing stress.

Even ruminating over a work email can elicit the stress response, showing up physically in actions like nail biting, or in racing thoughts and high blood pressure. Whether stress is occurring outside of us or in our mind, our body still reacts the same way.

How therapeutic yoga can boost your mental health
In terms of self-healing, learning to actively rest our bodies is just as important as getting enough sleep. Yoga's guided meditation actually takes the mind into an active state of rest where the brain experiences alpha waves. You're alert, but your brain waves are the same as they are in the first stage of sleep.

We now know that meditation can actually change the limbic system and restructure the brain. Typically, grey matter, which makes the brain more efficient and powerful, depletes over our lifetime. According to recent studies, practising even just a few minutes of meditation on a daily basis produces more grey matter in the regions of the brain responsible for controlling attention, mental flexibility and emotional regulation.

We still need to get out and get active to keep our health in check, but it’s important to find balance in the type of practices you engage in. Therapeutic yoga classes tout a long list of payoffs, including lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and decreased depression, making slowing down just as beneficial as sweating your heart out.

TCM: 5 Adaptogenic Herbs for Immunity, Energy and Stress Relief

If your daily to-do list seems to lengthen while your energy levels diminish, this may be the time to try adaptogenic herbs.

Certain herbs called adaptogens are particularly helpful in restoring and maintaining positive homeostasis. This is due to their ability to help us adapt to change, in particular to the challenges associated with aging. Many people who follow traditional healing systems (think Chinese, Tibetan or Ayurvedic) have incorporated these herbs and remedies into their lifestyles and even their cooking.

Derived from plants and plant parts, these herbs reduce stress and correct imbalances in your system. With the right regimen, you'll sail through winter in good health. Adaptogenic herbs increase your body's resistance to physical, biological, emotional, and environmental stressors. All adaptogens help regulate the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitaryadrenal) axis, meaning they can adjust imbalances related to immunity, hormones, and stress. Each one also offers unique benefits; peek some of our top 5 below:

Ashwagandha (Fatigue & Insomnia) The roots of this nightshade plant, also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, have been used in parts of Asia and Africa to treat various ailments, including lower back pain, arthritis, sexual dysfunction, and stomach upset. A review of scientific studies published in Alternative Medicine Review concluded that the herb fights stress and has a positive effect on the central nervous system.

Reishi (Emotional Balance) Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners use this herb to calm the mind and restore emotional balance. A study in the Journal of Medicinal Food found eight weeks of treatment with reishi reduced fatigue and improved wellbeing in 123 Chinese patients diagnosed with fatigue. The mushroom has polysaccharides, carbohydrates that boost disease-fighting cells.

Schisandra (Mental & Physical Ability) These berries can be both calming and stimulating. TCM practitioners use the fruit to remedy diarrhea and boost lung and liver health. Schisandra also stimulates the central nervous system, enhancing physical and mental abilities. A study in Phytomedicine showed that athletes who took schisandra before training had improved exercise performance and enhanced recovery when compared with athletes not given the herb.

Panax Ginseng (Vitality) One of the more stimulating adaptogens, Panax (or Asian) ginseng root (shown) improves cognitive function and strengthens the body. In TCM, it's used to restore energy, boost a depleted immune system, and improve vitality. Winston recommends Panax ginseng for people who have chronic fatigue or who are frequently cold or sick. A Journal of Nutrition review says ginseng's anti-inflammatory properties may thwart damage to DNA.

Eleuthero (Stamina) Occasionally called Siberian ginseng (though it doesn't belong to the same plant species), eleuthero was traditionally used in Chinese medicine to treat swelling and spasms. Evidence shows eleuthero improves endurance and strengthens the immune system, reducing the incidence of colds and other common infections.

Little Yogis: 5 Tips to Support Shavasana for Kids

Little yogis say namaste! Children derive enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves. Doing yoga, children exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self, and develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them. Yoga brings that marvelous inner light that all children have to the surface.

Whether you are sharing yoga with your kids at home, teaching a yoga class for kids, or taking a break in the classroom, these 5 tips will help you facilitate a restful and rejuvenating experience for your children. You will find that once it becomes familiar, the children will ask for it often.

  1. Let them choose their position. Lying spread out on the back can feel vulnerable and awkward. Children are often more comfortable lying on their side or stomach. This helps them feel grounded and limits their sensory input. Over time kids will get comfortable in the classic posture, but let them find it for themselves. In a school classroom, where space is at a premium, simply have the children sit in their chairs or up against the wall.
  2. Create quiet conditions. Dim the lights, reduce sounds as much as possible, and give each child a blanket. The weight of the blanket is soothing to the nervous system and muffles sensory input to the skin. Eye pillows are also nice. The kids may fidget with them or place them on their tummy—that’s fine. Some kids need a fidget toy to help quiet their mind.
  3. Relax the body.  It’s hard to be still when there is frenetic energy in the body. A strong yoga practice is the best prerequisite for deep rest. Another technique is to have children pretend they are a dead bug: “Lie on your back with your legs and arms in the air. First slowly wiggle and then shake your limbs like a bug on its last legs. Then flop—let your arms and legs fall to the ground.” Children find this hilarious and it helps quiet the body.
  4. Relax the mind with a story. Leaving a kid to lie still with no guidance is unlikely to evoke deep rest. Guided visualizations are wonderful for children, as these engage their mind in a soft and soothing way.
  5. Check your expectations. This is perhaps the most important part. Set your expectations for a positive outcome. Beliefs and intentions have significant impact on our experience. If you think the kids are squirrelly and won’t relax, you’re right. If you think the kids are developing a life skill that will serve them well over the years and they just need some guidance and time to become familiar with it, you’re right. It’s very helpful to sit down and get quiet yourself. Allow the experience of stillness and peace to flood your awareness, and notice how that affects the children. Set your expectations for a positive outcome. Beliefs and intentions have significant impact on our experience.
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